If Rebecca Gilman’s great gift is an uncanny instinct for dramatic power, her gnawing weakness is an unseemly penchant for self-congratulation. Such a judgment may seem perverse, given Gilman’s remorselessly savage take on the complacent campus types populating her 1999 racially charged drama, now revived as part of Eclipse’s 2006 Gilman season. But the choice of targets speaks volumes. Yeats said that rhetoric comes from arguments with others, while poetry comes from the argument with oneself. From arguments with straw others, it seems, little emerges but the theatrical equivalent of blogging. Vermont’s Belmont College, a curious enclave in which the stuffiest stuffed shirt namechecks Ayn Rand while the dean of students secured her doctorate (in “administration”) without ever happening across the most famous taglines from Yeats’s “Second Coming,” finds itself rocked by a manufactured scandal involving an African-American student. Only brave Dean Sarah Daniels (Kerry Richlan) manages to cut through the assorted posturing to reveal, in a characteristically brutal Gilman soliloquy, a racism that seems more pathological than endemic to us guilty white liberals. Richlan does her level best to make her disparate assemblage of traits cohere, but Daniels remains a highly implausible proposition. Robert McLean, John Ruhaak, and Larry Baldacci work valiantly to breathe life into their more conventionally imagined types, including (God help us!) the saintly security guard who really knows how to run a college. Eclipse’s production is crisply intelligent, but Gilman’s play, while it has the courage to puncture Toni Morrison, doesn’t demonstrate the intelligence to know why she actually deserves it. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.